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5 things to watch on the ASX 200 on Thursday

On Wednesday the S&P/ASX 200 (Index: ^AXJO) (ASX: XJO) returned to form with a gain of 0.35% to 6,150.3 points.

Will the local market be able to build on this on Thursday? Here are five things to watch:

ASX futures pointing higher.

The Australian share market looks set to start the day on a positive note. According to the latest SPI futures, the ASX 200 is expected to open the day higher by 0.2% or 13 points. This follows a mixed night of trade on Wall Street which late in the session sees the Dow Jones down 0.2%, the S&P 500 flat, and the Nasdaq ever so slightly higher.

Oil prices storm higher.

Santos Ltd (ASX: STO) and Woodside Petroleum Limited (ASX: WPL) shares will be on watch on Thursday after oil prices stormed higher overnight after U.S. crude stockpiles plunged. According to Bloomberg, the WTI crude oil price has pushed 2.8% higher to US$57.04 a barrel and the Brent crude oil price is up 1.9% to US$66.46 a barrel.

Rio Tinto special dividend.

The Rio Tinto Limited (ASX: RIO) share price could be on the rise this morning following the release of its full year results after the market close. The mining giant generated US$7 billion of free cash flow and delivered a 6% increase in earnings per share to 512.3 U.S. cents. This strong performance allowed the Rio Tinto board to declare a final dividend of 180 U.S. cents per share and a special dividend of 243 U.S. cents per share.

Ramsay Health Care results.

The Ramsay Health Care Limited (ASX: RHC) share price will be on watch on Thursday when the private hospital operator releases its half year results. Tough trading conditions means Ramsay is targeting core EPS growth of up to 2% in FY 2019.

Shares going ex-dividend.

A number of shares are trading ex-dividend this morning for their latest payouts. This includes iron ore producer Fortescue Metals Group Limited (ASX: FMG) which is paying a special dividend, private health insurer NIB Holdings Limited (ASX: NHF), and conglomerate Woolworths Group Ltd (ASX: WOW).

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Motley Fool contributor James Mickleboro has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia has recommended NIB Holdings Limited and Ramsay Health Care Limited. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Scott Phillips.

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